Comparing top models from iLife and Roomba
iLIFE robot vacuums are known for their low prices. In fact, with some priced under $200, you may have wondered if such inexpensive robot vacuums are any good. Is iLIFE a good robot vacuum brand? And how do they compare to other robot vacuum brands, especially Roomba?
The BestReviews Testing Lab has tested over 10 models of Roombas, and we wanted to compare them to what we’ve learned about iLIFE robot vacuums. Based on our research, we’ve found several iLIFE robot vacuums that compare favorably to Roombas, and one in particular, the iLIFE V3s Pro, is one of the best robot vacuums for controlling pet hair on hard floors.
Roomba robot vacuums are made by iRobot, a Massachusetts-based company that got its start making robots for space exploration and the United States military. iRobot makes Roomba robot vacuums and a combination vacuum-and-mop model as well as Braava robot mops. Its products are assembled by various partners in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Amazon recently announced that it has acquired iRobot.
iLIFE (not to be confused with the iLife insurance OS) is based in the tech hub of Shenzhen, China. iLIFE makes robot vacuums, robot floor cleaners and mops, and several combo vacuum-and-mop robots, plus branches out into standard vacuums.
iRobot vs. iLIFE: What they do well
Like almost all robot vacuums, Roombas and iLIFE robots share a lot in common, from shape to mechanics to features. However, each brand does have particular strengths that they’re known for.
iRobot Roomba benefits
- Durability: Roombas have a reputation for being long-lasting and durable. Many Roomba models have been known to last for five years or more, and we found that iRobot makes parts for even retired models easy to find.
- Dual rollers: Unlike many competitors, including iLIFE, Roombas use two rollers to agitate and lift dirt from floors. During our testing, this gave them more cleaning power than suction alone.
- Effective on carpeting: Cleaning rugs and carpeting well can be a challenge for many robot vacuums. While evaluating Roombas, we noticed that their strong suction combined with the dual rollers makes them especially good at getting even small particles out of carpeting.
- Hard floors: iLIFE robot vacuums have made a name for themselves as hard flooring specialists, performing well on hardwood and other bare floors.
- Dual side brushes: Unlike Roombas and most other robot vacuums, iLIFE robot vacuums sport not one, but two side or sweeper brushes, on either side, to guide dirt into their cleaning path.
- Low prices: iLIFE robot vacuums are the lowest-priced robot vacuums at almost every market segment that are still backed by a reputable company with customer support.
What they could improve
While Roombas and iLIFE robot vacuums are generally well-regarded, each brand also has some drawbacks.
iRobot Roomba drawbacks
- Price: Low-end and mid-range Roombas tend to cost more than iLIFE robot vacuums and other competitors with comparable features, while high-end Roombas with advanced features and high performance are priced accordingly.
- Suction: While capable cleaners, Roombas aren’t known for having the most powerful suction ratings compared to competitors — however, we found they still managed to do a quality job in spite of this.
- Quality and longevity: iLIFE robot vacuums have picked up a so-so reputation for product quality and longevity, with recurring complaints about robots or their batteries not lasting more than a year.
- App quality: iLIFE’s apps for iOS and Android, such as the iLIFE Vac app and iLIFEROBOT NA, have received criticism from reviewers and customers for being unstable, crashing or otherwise being difficult to use.
- Carpet: iLIFE’s carpet-capable models have not made as good an impression as their hard floor-only robots.
Top Roomba model: Roomba Combo J7+
Battery life: 128 minutes | Dimensions: 13.3″ L x 13.3” W x 3.4” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.4 L | Weight: 7.35 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
Released in 2022, the Roomba Combo j7+ robot vacuum and mop is one of iRobot’s latest and most feature-packed Roombas, and we found it performed very well in both functions in our testing. As a vacuum, we found it to be effective on both carpet and hard flooring, picking up salt, cereal, pet hair and cat litter with little to no residue left behind. We were particularly impressed by its mopping capabilities, removing small spills and stubborn residue and never getting snagged on carpet thanks to its unique robotic arm that automatically moves the mopping mechanism up to the top when it senses carpeting or rugs.
The Roomba j7 series, of which the Combo j7+ is a member, features a front-mounted camera for visual navigation, also called vSLAM or visual simultaneous localization and mapping. Put simply, the Combo j7+ and its siblings can see where they’re going. They recognize obstacles in real time, including pet waste, and change direction to avoid them. The Combo j7+ comes with a dock for automatic dirt disposal as well, making it a comprehensive cleaning robot for your home.
Other Roombas we like
Battery life: 107 minutes | Dimensions: 12.25” L x 12.25″ W x 3.5” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 8.15 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
The Roomba s9+ is our favorite Roomba model for power. Launched in 2019, it’s got the most pure suction power of any Roomba, nearly 10 times that of the Roomba j7 series and 40 times that of entry-level 600-series Roombas. It’s also got brush rollers that are 30% wider than those of other Roombas, giving it a wide cleaning path to pick up more debris at a time. A self-emptying model, it automatically disposes the dirt in its dustbin into a 60-day dock, and it navigates with a camera mounted on its top. When put into Careful Drive mode, it can capably detect and steer away from most obstacles except for small items, such as cords and wires (however, it won’t get up very close to walls or furniture while this mode is turned on).
Our absolute favorite aspect of the s9+ is its shape. The Roomba s9 series are the first Roombas to adopt a D-shape instead of being round. A flat front with edges lets the s9+ get deeper and clean more thoroughly in corners than any round robot vacuum, as we confirmed in our testing.
Roomba i4 EVO
Battery life: 94 minutes | Dimensions: 13.34” L x 13.26” W x 3.63” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 7.44 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: Yes
The mid-range Roomba i4 EVO from 2021 consistently provided capable cleaning throughout our testing. Although not equipped with any visual or advanced navigation, its support for smart mapping and row-by-row cleaning made it a superior performer to more basic Roombas during testing. Its suction power matches that of the Roomba j series, and combined with its dual rubberized rollers, allows it to pick up salt, cereal, pet hair and cat litter on both hard flooring and carpet of various pile heights. Its simplicity and dependability make the Roomba i4 EVO a great choice for an everyday robot vacuum.
Top iLIFE model: iLIFE V3s Pro
Battery life: 90 minutes | Dimensions: 11.8” L x 11.8” W x 2.98” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.3 L | Weight: 4.85 lb | Mapping: No | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
The iLIFE V3s Pro, which launched in 2016, is not iLIFE’s most powerful, most advanced or even most recent robot vacuum. A member of iLIFE’s hard-floor-focused V family, it lacks advanced mapping or emptying and doesn’t even pair with an app, using a remote control instead to program schedules and occasionally steer. But what it does do, and does well, is consistently backed by praise from reviewers and customers: It cleans pet hair. Pet owners cite the V3s Pro as one of the best robot vacuums for pet hair available.
V-series iLIFE models like the V3s Pro lack rollers or roller brushes of any kind. Instead, they have an open suction mouth that provides nothing for pet hair or other debris to get tangled in. Two side sweeper brushes guide debris into the cleaning path to be easily removed. The iLIFE V3s Pro is slightly less than 3 inches tall, allowing it to slip under some furniture most Roombas can’t, and it has infrared sensors to prevent it from falling down stairs or bumping into objects.
Other iLIFE models we like
iLIFE A4s Pro
Battery life: 100 minutes | Dimensions: 12” L x 12” W x 3” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.45 L | Weight: 4.85 lb | Mapping: No | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: No
iLIFE’s A series robot vacuums are designed for cleaning carpets as well as hard floors. There are several models in the A series to choose from, but one of our favorites remains the entry-level iLIFE A4s Pro.
Like the V3s Pro, the A4s Pro is a non-mapping model that offers a remote control for basic scheduling and operation. It’s sized similarly to the V3s Pro and can get under the same furniture that the other iLIFE model can. The A4s Pro, however, is equipped to deal with carpet, with a tangle-resistant brush roller and an auto-sensing feature that increases suction to 1,200 Pa (pascals) when the robot detects it’s rolled onto carpet. This extra suction power and niceties, such as a virtual-wall accessory (which creates an invisible barrier the robot won’t cross) and dual side brushes, makes the iLIFE A4s Pro an appealing model at an appealing low cost.
iLIFE A4s Pro vs. Roomba
Speaking of the iLIFE A4s Pro, we wanted to compare it directly to a couple of Roomba models with which it competes on price and features, the entry-level Roomba 694 and the lower-midrange Roomba i4 EVO. While the Roomba i4 EVO beats the iLIFE A4s Pro in navigation, thanks to its smart-mapping capability and row-by-row cleaning, the A4s Pro matches and even surpasses the i4 EVO in pure suction, with a suction range from 600 to 2,000 Pa. The A4s Pro is significantly more powerful suction-wise than the Roomba 694, whose suction numbers are much lower.
Both the iLIFE A4s Pro and the Roomba 694 navigate by means of what’s called bump or bounce navigation, a semi-random form of navigation iRobot invented inspired by insect intelligence. This can be annoying to watch, but, if left alone, can result in effective cleaning over time. The iLIFE A4s Pro, however, also has a remote control with steering, allowing you to drive the A4s Pro like a remote-controlled car.
The Roomba 694 and i4 EVO connect with Wi-Fi and can be controlled via a smartphone app. This gives them scheduling, maintenance and usage stats and helps them connect to voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home. The iLIFE A4s Pro doesn’t connect to any iLIFE app or voice assistant, but it does support scheduling via its remote control.
Like all Roombas, the Roomba 694 and i4 EVO have dual rollers, while the iLIFE A4s Pro has only one. This allows the Roombas to clean more effectively despite their lower suction. Additionally, the Roomba i4 EVO has the textured rubber rollers of all mid- and high-end Roombas, that work on a variety of surfaces and pile heights while resisting hair tangles. Despite its design, with alternating bristles and fins, the iLIFE A4s Pro’s single roller still can get some hair wraparound.
iLIFE vs. Roomba functionality
For more in-depth comparisons between Roombas and iLIFE robot vacuums, we looked at suction, navigation, features, pricing, range and design.
Suction isn’t the be-all and end-all of stats when it comes to how well a robot vacuum cleans, but it’s still important to consider. Suction ratings are often expressed in pa or Pascals by brands. iLIFE robot vacuums range in suction power from 600 Pa in the V3s Pro, to 600 to 2,000 Pa in the A4s Pro and other A-series models, to 4,000 Pa in the flagship T10 model.
iRobot doesn’t make suction stats in pascals easy to find for Roombas, but the Roomba 600 series has been estimated at 600 Pa, the same as the iLife V3s Pro. In the V3s Pro, 600 Pa allows it to clean well on bare floors, especially when it comes to light and fluffy pet hair. In contrast, when we tested the Roomba 694, it held its own on carpet and hard flooring, but most items, especially heavy and bulky breakfast cereal, needed a couple of passes to pick up.
The Roomba i4 EVO and Combo j7+ have suction estimated at 1,500 to 1,800 Pa, and in our tests, both types of models performed satisfactorily on both carpet and hardwood, better than several competitor models with higher suction power. The Roomba s9+ is estimated at 2,200-2,500 Pa, leaving behind little to no residue in all our tests except for breakfast cereal, though even that was less than those left by other Roombas.
You might think that the higher the suction, the stronger the engine and, therefore, the louder the noise, but our Roomba testing found the Roomba i4 EVO to be quieter than the lower-powered Roomba 694. We measured the i4 EVO at 56 to 61 decibels and the Roomba 694 at 63 to 64 decibels. Note that the iLife V3s Pro has been measured much quieter, at 50 to 55 decibels, softer than an air conditioner.
iRobot invented the famous, or notorious, bump/bounce navigation that people have come to associate with robot vacuums. A basic form of artificial intelligence, bump or bounce has been adopted by entry-level models across many brands of robot vacuums, including iLIFE. Both the V3s Pro and the A4s Pro are bump or bounce models. They clean in a given direction until they bump into an obstacle, bounce off it and go in a different, semi-random direction.
Becoming more common, however, are more orderly navigation and cleaning paths. The Roomba i4 EVO, Combo j7+ and s9+ in our testing followed orderly row-by-row cleaning patterns, which cover more floor area more efficiently than the random bump-and-go navigation could. All three of those models and their product families also support mapping, which lets a robot vacuum remember the layout of your home and guide itself accordingly. The Roomba j and s series use the aforementioned vSLAM to map and navigate by camera and to avoid obstacles.
iLIFE’s more advanced models, such as the A10, A11 and the top-line T10, use LiDAR (light detection and ranging) instead of vSLAM. Shooting invisible lasers, LiDAR-equipped robot vacuums create detailed maps of their surroundings and can navigate with impressive precision, although not even LiDAR models have demonstrated the real-time active obstacle avoidance we saw in the Roomba j-series models, which get assistance from a front-facing camera.
What features set iLIFE robot vacuums apart from Roombas, or vice versa? We take a look at dustbin size, edge cleaning, threshold negotiation and remote controls.
- Dustbins: On the whole, iLIFE robot vacuums have larger dustbins than comparable Roombas, with 450-milliliter and even 700-milliliter capacities being common. Higher-end iLIFE models boast what it calls cellular dustbins, which use cyclonic action to collect and settle debris in subcompartments inside the dustbins.
- Spot and edge modes: All Roomba models support one-button spot-cleaning mode for focused cleaning of specific messes. iLIFE models also support spot cleaning, and add edge cleaning as well, allowing the robot to pay attention to cleaning along walls and other boundaries.
- Thresholds: iLIFE calls attention to their robot vacuums’ ability to surmount 15-degree grades and handle height differences of up to 0.8 inches in the case of the iLIFE V9e. This helps them negotiate changes of flooring, such as hardwood to carpet and vice versa. None of the Roomba models we tested had any significant trouble negotiating any of the thresholds we had.
- Remote controls: iLIFE models without Wi-Fi or app control still come with remote controls. These remotes have options for directional steering, power, modes and scheduling. Roombas used to have remote controls until the lineup switched completely to Wi-Fi and smartphone apps.
iLIFE is known for low prices compared to other reputable robot vacuum brands, including Roomba. iLIFE prices range from $165 to $185 for the V3s Pro and A4s Pro, to $250 for the powerful hard-floor specialist V9e, to $400 for the advanced A11 vacuum-and-mop combo, and $600 for the top-of-the-line T10 with self-emptying dock.
iLIFE robot vacuums can be divided into two product families, the V family for pet hair and hard flooring, and the A family for carpet and all-around cleaning. Each product family has low-end, mid-range and high-end models, such as the low-end V3s Pro and the high-end V9e, or the low-end A4s Pro and the high-end A11. Both families include vacuum-only and vacuum-mop combo models. The T10 is a member of a new family with a self-emptying dock.
iRobot’s Roombas are divided by price and feature set. The 600 series makes up the entry-level Roomba line, the i series the mid-range, the j series the upper midrange and the s series the high-end level. However, the j series includes some of the newest Roomba models and is considered the flagship line. iRobot has made four Roomba models with mopping, three of which are available only in Europe.
iLIFE robot vacuums have a wider range of sizes and finishes than Roombas. iLIFE models have been known for glossy surfaces, textured or patterned top shells, and thicknesses slimmer than, or stouter than, comparable Roombas. Metallic finishes in gold, blue or silver as well as white plastic contrast iLIFE models with the mostly black and gray Roombas, although the Roomba s9+ stands out with its flat front and bronze-colored accents.
Roombas are known to be built like tanks, withstanding lots of wear and tear. iLIFE robot vacuums don’t have that reputation.
iLIFE is an innovative robot vacuum brand always seeking to improve its products and add new features to their product lines. iLIFE’s low prices are their biggest strength, but that doesn’t mean iLIFE robot vacuums are necessarily cheaply made. iLIFE’s hard-flooring vacuums that specialize in pet hair, such as the low-priced iLIFE V3s Pro, do a great job for pet lovers. However, people who want an all-around and dependable robot vacuum, especially those with lots of carpet, should consider a Roomba i4 EVO, j series or s9+.
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Jmar Gambol writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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